Pools Claim Replay After Stunning Fightback

Hartlepool United players celebrate during the FA Cup tie at Exeter City

An incredible goal from Nicky Featherstone paved the way for an astonishing Pools comeback as they recovered from 2-0 down to claim a draw in the FA Cup at Exeter City.

Dave Challinor’s men looked dead and buried at half time after goals from Ryan Bowman and Nigel Atangana had put the home side in the driving seat.

However, Featherstone lashed an unstoppable strike in to the top corner from almost thirty yards before Nicke Kabamba scrambled home an equaliser eleven minutes from time.

The Pools line-up showed one change as Peter Kioso was forced to sit the tie out with concussion so his place in defence went to Kenton Richardson, while 16-year-old prospect Joe Grey was named on the bench.

Pools had the first real opening though when Josh Hawkes brilliantly thread a ball through to Gime Toure who skilfully chopped back inside on to his right foot but his shot rippled the side netting.

The opening goal arrived on 21 minutes when City worked the ball well on the right hand side and, when Atangana whipped a ball in to the box, Bowman was there to nod in from close-range.

Pools almost got back on level terms immediately when a slick move saw Hawkes find space on the edge of the box but his powerful drive flew just wide of the post.

It was 2-0 to the hosts just before the half-hour mark when Dean Moxey met a back post corner with a firm, looping header which was pawed away by Ben Killip only for Atangana to ram in the rebound.

Again Pools looked to respond positively and Hawkes again shimmied in to a bit of space 25 yards out but this time he sent his shot well over the bar.

Pools had to come out on the front foot at the start of the second half but they were met with a well-organised and determined City defence.

A well-worked and patient build-up saw James presented with a chance to turn inside from the left and left fly but his curling effort didn’t do enough and fell wide of the post.

However, Pools weren’t taking no for an answer and James was back it a minute later, seeing his shot on the edge of the box blocked before the host’s rearguard also prevented Hawkes’ shot from testing keeper Jonny Maxted.

Killip saved well from Bowman after a flowing counter-attack from Exeter as Pools began to throw more men forward and leave themselves vulnerable at the back.

The game swung on 72 minutes when Williams danced in from the right and drew a fine save from Killip before the Pools keeper sprung to his feet to deny Lee Martin and then Jake Taylor with an astonishing double-save. It proved pivotal.

Pools immediately charged to the other end of the field and Featherstone wandered on to the ball thirty yards out to drive a rising thunderbolt in to the top left corner of the net to pull his side back in to contention in the tie.

The mood changed, suddenly there were nerves on the pitch and on the home terraces – and within six minutes Pools had squared things up. James was played in on the edge of the box and he nudged it square for the arriving Richardson whose shot proved too hot to handle for Maxted and, when it bounced against the post, Pools substitute Nicke Kabamba reacted quickest to bundle it home.

The could have been late drama when Taylor drove in to space twenty yards out and sent a curling effort on goal but, with Killip beaten, the ball clipped the outside of the post on its way wide.

The two sides will now meet again at The Vic in a replay likely to be played a week on Tuesday to decide who progresses to Round Three of this year’s FA Cup.

Full Time: Exeter City 2 Pools 2

Exeter City: Maxted, Sweeney, Moxey, A Martin, Williams, Collins, Atangana, Sparkes, Law (Taylor 68), Seymour (L Martin 68), Bowman.
Subs not used: Visser, Parkes, Jay, Fisher, Richardson.

Booked: Sparkes, Sweeney, A Martin.

Pools: Killip, Richardson, Raynes (Cunningham 72), Kerr, Kitching, Featherstone, Mafuta (Kabamba 72), Hawkes, Donaldson, James, Toure.
Subs not used: Crichlow-Noble, Kennedy, Holohan, Muir, Grey.

Booked: James.

Attendance: 3,638 (133 Poolies)

Referee: Josh Smith.